Snake, Yellow Rat


Elaphe obsolete quadrivittata


Yellow rat snakes are non-venomous snakes. Their body is yellow in color dorsally and laterally, and pale yellow ventrally. They have four long stripes running down the body. They grow to an average length of 40 to 70 inches.

Family

Colubridae

Order

Squamata

Class

Reptilia

Range

Coastal North Carolina to Florida, into central Georgia and Florida

Habitat

Life Expectancy

Up to 20 years

Sexual Maturity

Diet

In the wild, rat snakes eat mice, rats, other small rodents, bird eggs, and baby birds. In the zoo, they are fed a diet of mice and rats.

Status

IUCN - Not Listed

Behaviors

Between March and May, snakes will begin to emerge from winter’s hibernation. After a few weeks, rat snakes begin to seek out a mate, typically in late April, May, and early June. Males tend to wait for the females to pass through their territory, and by using pheromones, will communicate and initiate the mating process with the female. A male will approach a female, line up with her and attempt to wrap his tail around her tail with their vents nearly touching. Some males will grasp females with their mouths to hold them in place and prevent their escape. The male will then erect his hemipene and insert it into the female’s cloaca while several small spines anchor the hemipene firmly. Mating can last only a few minutes or it can span the time of a few hours. Five weeks later, the female will lay around 5 to 27 eggs. The female will lay her eggs in a hidden area, under hollow logs or leaves, or in abandoned burrows. The eggs will hatch 55 to 60 days later. Like other reptiles, rat snakes have temperature dependent sex determination. Warmer temperatures produce males, while cooler temperatures produce females. The hatchlings of common rat snakes are vigorous eaters and will double their size rather quickly. If conditions are good, females will sometimes produce two clutches of eggs a year. Rat snakes are primarily known as rodent eaters, however, other food preferences do exist. As juveniles, rat snakes will eat small lizards, baby mice, and an occasional small frog. Adult rat snakes have a diet mainly consisting of mice and rats, but will also include chipmunks, moles, and other small rodents. Adults will also eat bird eggs and young birds that do not put up a strong fight. Rat snakes kill their prey by constriction.

Adaptions

Special Interests

Yellow rat snakes are arboreal, commonly climbing trees to eat birds and bird eggs.

Folklore

Conservation

Jacksonville Zoo History

Exhibit

Wild Florida